“Thinspiration! – Come on, I can do it!” Last week I saw this posted on Twitter and nowadays, everywhere you look on social media, there are selfies of women in their bikini’s, in sportswear, posting ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of weight loss; all showing washboard flat stomachs and legs with the fashionable ‘thigh gap’. It is everywhere and you can’t avoid it.
‘Thinspiration’ photos posted all over the internet are fuelling the rise in eating disorders. I appreciate they are not the cause of eating disorders; eating disorders are incredibly complex, multi-faceted mental illnesses that originate from issues far deeper than photos posted on social media. But, to an already vulnerable person lacking in self esteem and self confidence, ‘Thinspiration’ photos can be the culminating trigger to send this person onto the deadly path towards anorexia (or another eating disorder.)
‘Thinspiration’ photos suggest there is an ‘ideal’ body shape…that we should all aspire to look like the women in the photos. And what can start off as an innocent diet trying to lose a bit of weight to achieve the appearance of the ‘Thinspiration’ photos can, to someone with a vulnerability, result in them becoming gripped by anorexia. There is always a debate as to whether certain illnesses (including eating disorders) are a result of genetics or the environment. No one ever really knows the true answer but it is suggested as a possible explanation that the two – genetics and the environment interact. Some people have a genetic predisposition to particular illnesses but these can remain dormant, unless (or until) triggered by something in the environment. And ‘Thinspiration’ photos can be this trigger.
I certainly have (and still am) affected by such photos. When at my worst, deep in the claws of anorexia, I would look at ‘Thinspiration’ photos to motivate me, to drive more restriction of food, more exercise, more weight loss…even though my BMI was barely above single figures. And I do not believe anyone posts photos of themselves to try and help others. Showing ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos some would claim may encourage those who are overweight to lose a bit of weight to become more healthy. I disagree. I think overweight people who see photos of THEMSELVES may then think they need to lose a bit of weight. But seeing other beautiful, slim, toned women? No. This just fuels further self hatred. And self hatred is an underlying issue for many eating disorders. It certainly is for me. I hate my body and these photos just add to that-they do now and they did in the past. They make me feel not good enough, they make me feel that I am repulsive, they make me feel ashamed of my disgusting body. And these feelings all just feed into my anorexia, giving it ammunition, giving me another reason why I need to hold on to it.
‘Thinspiration’ photos will never stop. Society is that way inclined that these types of photos are now the norm and expected. And it makes the people in the photos feel good, when they get a comment from someone saying how incredible they look. But to fellow onlookers, particularly people like myself, it can make our issues and our struggles even harder. It is so easy to get sucked in by it, to believe you can achieve this ‘perfect’ body, but this to can so easily become a battle with an eating disorder.
When I saw that post on Twitter: “Thinspiration-Come on, I can do it!” It made me realise for the first time that actually yes, I can do it. I have lost weight to the lowest of the low, I have shown my dedication to ‘thinspiration’ and anorexia and having been through it, having lived in hell for the past decade, I am now choosing not to do it. I often fear and worry that I am losing anorexia as, as it stands, I still currently need it in my life. But I manage it and I am not completely overtaken by it. And I realised that I could be if I wanted to be. If I really wanted to go back to it, to go back to that way of existing-of destroying my health and my life (and that of my parents) then I could. ‘Thinspiration-come on I can do it!’ Yes I can. But I don’t want to. I am going to be stronger than all the ‘Thinspiration’ photos, I am not going to let them tempt me back into anorexic hell. I cannot avoid these photos but I am going to do my very best to ignore them. And I recommend everyone else do the same-whatever your size, whatever your weight…these photos do nothing but harm. Forget ‘Thinspiration’. Just focus on your own Inspiration-whatever it may be in whatever area of life- to achieve what you want to achieve. ‘Thinspiration’ will not bring me down.